Where the sausage is made: A nine-member panel privately plots a course for the Hill

The Executive Management Committee, charged with ensuring that the entire Hill District benefits from the Civic Arena development, has had increasingly public disagreements, and may be preparing to open up its ‘messy’ process.

by Rich Lord, PublicSource

Discussions that may shape the Hill District’s future are happening behind closed doors, so far.Every other Friday, a nine-member panel assembles – virtually, nowadays – to discuss the benefits the Hill stands to gain from coming development on the former Civic Arena site.

That panel, the Executive Management Committee [EMC], is charged with answering one of the region’s most contentious questions: How can the Pittsburgh Penguins-led redevelopment of the 28-acre site address the effects of decisions made in the 1950s to raze Black Pittsburgh’s hub and build an arena?

Created via a 2014 agreement, the EMC is not a public entity and thus isn’t required to hold open meetings. Nonetheless, given its importance, PublicSource has been asking since Aug. 10 for access to an EMC meeting. So far, the EMC has not provided that opportunity.

“The EMC … is working to open it up to any and all media and public attending future meetings,” city Councilman Daniel Lavelle, one of the panel’s three co-chairs, told PublicSource at the Sept. 1 groundbreaking of FNB Financial Center. That 26-story tower will be the site’s commercial anchor.

“But there are some issues [EMC members] want to work through over the next two or three meetings, and then open it up to all of the public to attend,” Lavelle said. He did not detail the issues, nor respond to requests for further comment.

Since May, the EMC has emerged publicly as a factor in decisions by the City Planning Commission and Urban Redevelopment Authority [URA] that allowed the Penguins’ chosen developers to break ground. Its increasing profile, though, has exposed divisions in a body created to forge consensus.

EMC member Marimba Milliones, who heads the Hill Community Development Corp., has alleged conflicts of interest and a resulting pro-developer tilt on the panel. A URA-prompted effort to grade the developers on their community commitments resulted in disagreement and mixed reviews among EMC members. Now there appears to be division on when and how to open the process to the public.

Long used as a parking lot, the 28 acres of the former Civic Arena is now up for redevelopment. The Penguins’ plan for the property has been the subject of much community debate. (Photo by Ryan Loew/PublicSource)

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